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What is a Geordie?

Strictly speaking, the term Geordie refers to a person from the Tyneside region (River Tyne) of England, or the dialect spoken in the region. But this definition would be so restrictive that people generally use the word Geordie to mean anyone from the North East of England, from Durham in the south to the top end of Northumberland in the north.

Although the origin of the term is disputed there are two theories that sound logical enough for either of them to be true. The first is that during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 the people of Newcastle took the side of King George II, while the people of Northumberland were largely Jacobites. Hence the people of Newcastle became known as Geordies. The other theory is that miners in the North East used Geordie safety lamps, invented by George Stephenson, and not the Davy Lamps invented by Humphry Davy that were used by miners in other part of the country.

Well-known Geordies

Well-known Geordies include: footballers—Alan Shearer, Jackie Milburn, Bobby and Jackie Charlton, Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle; musicians—Sting; Eric Burdon, Alan Price and Chas Chandler of the Animals, and Mark Knopfler; writers—Catherine Cookson (one of the best selling authors in the world), Jack Higgins (pseudonym for Harry Patterson, horror writer Stephen Laws, playwright and screenwriter Alan Plater, and poet Basil Bunting; actors—Stan Laurel, Robson Green, Imogen Stubbs, and Jimmy Nail; industrialists—George Stephenson, who is known as the “Father of the Railways,” Robert Stephenson, Lord William George Armstrong, and Sir Charles Parsons.  And, last but not least, there is Detective Akira Toyoda, the honorary Geordie and central character in the novel Blinded by the Night.

Geordie — The Spoken Language

The Geordie dialect and accent is closer to Anglo-Saxon pronunciations and accents than standard English because it was originally derived from Scandinavian languages brought to the north of England by the Angles and Vikings. Personal pronouns, for example, are pronounced differently in Geordie than in Standard English: I – aw; you – ye; my – me; our – wor. The “er” at the end of words sounds like “a”, as in “father” becoming “fatha.” The “ow” in words like “down” or “town” becomes “oo” as everyone in the United Kingdom knows, thanks to the famous football team, Newcastle United, which is know locally as “the Toon.” But it is not just the pronunciation that distinguishes Geordie from standard English: there are many words that are completely different. Geordies still uses many Anglo Saxon words like, for example: larn – teach; aad – old; claes – clothes; dyke – ditch; gan – go; lang – long. They also use Viking words: lass – girl; bairn – child; hyem – home; in fact, the phrase “gan hyem” means exactly the same in Danish as it does in Geordie.


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